What is considered Wrongful Termination in Virginia?

What is considered Wrongful Termination in Virginia?

Have you been instructed to engage in unlawful activities while at work or dismissed in a manner that contradicts the company’s handbook or established rules and regulations?

In Virginia, such instances of wrongful termination can potentially be pursued legally, provided the conditions are appropriate.

Although wrongful termination is deemed illegal in Virginia and DC, legal action is typically taken only under specific circumstances.

In most states, private-sector employees can be terminated by their employers for any reason or even without a reason, unless otherwise specified in a contract.

However, there are exceptions to this ‘at-will’ employment principle, particularly based on public policy considerations.

An image illustration of What is considered Wrongful Termination in Virginia
What is considered Wrongful Termination in Virginia
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Wrongful Termination In Virginia

In Virginia, ‘at-will’ employment is subject to only three exceptions.

Firstly, termination may occur if an employee exercises a contractual right, such as those related to employee benefits or compensation.

Maternity leave is a prominent example of wrongful termination, sparking considerable debate.

Termination may be unlawful if an employee refuses to engage in illegal activities.

Wrongful termination can occur if an individual is protected under specific statutes.

Examples include engaging in peaceful protests, sharing personal narratives with the press, or obtaining a concealed weapon permit.

The Virginia Human Rights Act (VHRA)

Having been amended, now bars workplace discrimination based on various grounds such as religion, sex, national origin, pregnancy, marital status, race, and color.

This amendment aims to prevent wrongful termination claims based on these factors and under the VHRA’s broader scope.

However, avenues other than wrongful termination claims, such as reporting health or safety violations that lead to termination, may need to be pursued.

Other instances of wrongful termination may include requesting maternity leave, seeking an extension on maternity leave, being required to use vacation days for non-vacation purposes, or taking sick leave for a serious illness.

Plaintiffs are afforded a two-year window to file claims for wrongful termination.

Should state-level remedies prove insufficient, pursuing a federal claim may not hinder an employee’s ability to seek recourse through a Virginia state court for wrongful termination.


Wrongful termination in Virginia has exceptions to the “at-will” employment doctrine.

Termination can happen if employees exercise contractual rights or refuse illegal activities.

Wrongful termination may also violate public policy or discriminate against employees.

Protected characteristics include race, sex, religion, national origin, pregnancy, marital status, or color.

Understanding these criteria is crucial for both employers and employees in Virginia.


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